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Personalizing medicine for prostate cancer patients, one tumour at a time

This project has been completed

A collection of more than 2,000 tumour samples. Over a dozen Canadian researchers. Four provinces. These are just some of the numbers behind TFRI’s Canadian Prostate Cancer Biomarker Network (CPCBN) project, which is working to personalize treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“The focus of the research is to better understand the elements involved in the progression of prostate cancer so that patients can make the best decisions regarding their individual cancers,” says Dr. Fred Saad, principal investigator of CPCBN based at University of Montreal Hospital Centres.

Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in Canadian men. Some types are aggressive and lethal, requiring aggressive treatment, while others are considered indolent and treatment may not be needed.

“This initiative will hopefully help us to understand which cancers need which treatments so we can better help patients diagnosed with prostate cancer,” says Dr. Saad.

Dr. Saad’s project team aims to develop biomarkers to detect the disease earlier, and enable more options for managing it. The biomarker prostate specific antigen (PSA) is the current go-to option used in clinics to diagnose patients, however it can’t differentiate between aggressive and indolent cancer tumours.

“PSA has its limitations because it will help us to find cancers, but once we find them we’re not sure what the best treatment approach is,” Dr. Saad says. “What we’re looking for with the markers that we’re presently researching is not to replace PSA, but to add to it.”

The CPCBN project involves centres in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and B.C. So far, more than 2,000 tissue samples and patient histories have been collected for the project’s research biobank, something Dr. Saad is confident will lead to better patient outcomes.

“We need to understand there’s a stress for patients when being diagnosed with prostate cancer which is augmented when we have to tell them we don’t know what is the best treatment approach,” he states. “Being able to address these issues will really help patients, and the society we live in.”